Remembering Boston’s Children


Thomas Starr

Practice Area


Thomas Starr (funded by the National Endowment of the Arts, Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authori


Project Vision

Remembering Boston’s Children 1980-2005

To engage citizens in a dialogue about the crisis of urban violence in some Boston neighborhoods, Remembering Boston’s Children 1980-2005 memorializes the many Boston children born in the last 20 years of the 20th century who will not become Boston adults in the 21st century.

Messages plastered on a Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority bus traversing Boston’s streets were written by children about other children they knew who were victims of violence. Because the testimonies recall loving, positive aspects of the homicide victims (“She was going to law school;” “He would do anything for you.”), at first read they seem like an uplifting addition to the urban landscape. But when readers realize why these children are being represented, the memorial delivers its powerful emotional and civic message. For those on board the bus, the project continues inside by focusing on the relationships of participants to victims.

Struck by the fact that 85% of Boston’s violent crime occurs in just 3 of its 13 neighborhoods, Starr decided the memorial should reach out to the entire city, not just the affected neighborhoods. Public buses—traditionally a unifying structure for children and adults alike and also a ubiquitous advertising medium—seemed an appropriate venue. “Through this project, the bus once again becomes a truly public vehicle, connecting a divided city with a message that addresses citizens as opposed to consumers,” he notes.

The project was funded by a $20,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, in addition to in-kind donations (particularly from the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority and Titan Worldwide) to cover the costs of space. The bus stayed in circulation for nine months, with frequent route rotations to cover the entire city.

Project Details
This entry challenged what we have begun to embrace as a 'memorial' in our culture. At a time when there seems to be a memorial for everything, what began with the Vietnam memorial as a successful contemporary interpretation of memorialization has been copied in many public installations since.
Juror 1
This design solution does more than just memorialize the youngest victims of urban violence in Boston. Through the smart use of simple graphics on public transit vehicles, it engages the community in a dialogue. The testimonies of classmates, friends, brothers, and sisters connect at an emotional yet accessible level that reaches the broadest of audiences. It shows how the written word, when applied creatively and graphically, can be effective in a very visible urban environment.
Juror 2
Design Firm

Thomas Starr

Project Area

one bus

Project Budget



Louis D. Brown Peace Institute


Imagic (exterior); Signarama (interior)